In August of 2013, investigators acting on an anonymous letter discovered that Rapfogel had been participating in an operation to pay higher than normal insurance premiums and then skim the difference between what was paid and what the real payment should have been. These payments were usually made to Rapfogel in envelopes stuffed with cash, investigators said. He was indicted in September 2013.
Rapfogel, 59, who led the Metropolitan New York Council on Jewish Poverty for two decades, was scheduled to entered a guilty plea before Judge Larry Stephen in State Supreme Court in Manhattan. Another defendant charged in the scheme, David Cohen, who was Mr. Rapfogel’s predecessor at the council, is also scheduled to plead guilty, before Judge Michael J. Obus. The men ware expected to plead guilty to multiple charges and will face prison sentences.
Rapfogel, when arrested in September, was charged with grand larceny, money laundering, conspiracy and other crimes in a criminal complaint filed by the state attorney general, Eric T. Schneiderman. Some of the money was used to make donations to politicians and political organizations. Investigators estimated he personally received more than $1 million; There was $372,000 recovered that Rapfogel had hidden in his homes and turned over to investigators after they asked about the scheme, and an additional $48,000 that was recovered later during the execution of a search warrant. Rapfogel’s yearly salary on the council was $400,000.
Rapfogel was a friend and political ally of State Assembly speaker Sheldon Silver, however since the allegations surfaced Mr. Silver has repudiated him, saying in a recent interview, “I have nothing to do with Willie Rapfogel.” Rapfogel’s wife, Judy Rapfogel, worked as Mr. Silver’s chief of staff for years. Neither Mr. Silver nor Ms. Rapfogel has been linked to the financial irregularities at the Met Council, and they each deny any knowledge of Mr. Rapfogel’s alleged activities.
In December, Joseph Ross, the owner of Century Coverage the insurance compnay involved in the scam, plead guilty to grand larceny, money laundering and tax fraud, admitting his role in the scheme. He was charged with also taking at least $1 million.
Investigators found that the scheme had actually begun prior to Rapfogel’s time as leader of the Met Council but had grown under his watch. The felony complaint against Cohen, a rabbi, and Herbert Friedman (Chief Financial Officer of Met Council) also a party to the kickbacks, says that prosecutors were told “that in or around the early 1990s and continuing up until August 2013, they conspired with Rapfogel and others” to collect kickbacks on insurance payments.
Met Council is one of New York’s largest human services agencies, providing 100,000 New Yorkers with critical services in their fight against poverty every year. They’re a Jewish organization that serves everyone, regardless of race, ethnicity or religion. They were barred from receiving donations while investigations were on going but that ban was lifted in December of 2013.